The Path Less Traveled: Fire Supporters in SOF by ProQuest


Fire support positions have existed within the SOF community primarily throughout the Ranger Regiment, but the bridge into the Special Forces enhances our capabilities as a branch and provides a fire support subject matter expert (SME) to the Special Forces (SF). An SF fire supporter may work with targeting systems suchas Joint Automated Deep Operations Coordination System (JADOCS), Precision Strike Suite for Special Operations Forces (PSS-SOF), Command Post of the Future (CPOF) and my Internet Relay Chat (mIRC). Nonorganic fire support assets include CAS from US and Coalition fixed-wing aircraft, indirect fire support from 105-mm, 155 -mm and High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems/ Multiple-LaunchRocket Systems, attack helicopters and now armed unmanned aerialvehicles suchas the MQ-I Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper.

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									                                                                                                AH-64 Apaches support MAJ Jason D. Adams
                                                                                                and a Special Forces Operational Detachment
                                                                                                Alpha (SF ODA) while in troops-in-contact with
                                                                                                Taliban fighters in the Helmand Province of
                                                                                                Afghanistan. (Photo by MAJ Jason D. Adams)

The Path Less Traveled:
Fire Supporters in SOF
      ne of the most important lessons                                                    or joint environment and understand
      learned by Army Special Operations         By CPT William W. Earl,                  the inherent intricacies. The question
      Forces (SOF) in the War on Terror-        CW3 Ray M. Bischoff and                   remains, what makes a position in the SF
ism (WOT) was the need to integrate joint      MAJ Jason D. Adams, all FA                 so different from any other battalion fire
fires at all levels of operations. Adding                                                 support assignment?
joint fires elements (JFEs) to the struc-                                                   One significant difference is that you are
ture of each special group ensures that     bined, joint and interagency operations.      a JFE operating across multiple brigade
special operators integrate all available   This applies not only within the con-         and division boundaries. This requires the
assets into their operations. To meet the   ventional realm for today’s Warfighter,       members of your element to have highly
growth requirements, the Field Artillery    but also requires an understanding of         diverse backgrounds and a strong knowl-
(FA) is looking for highly motivated fire   the dynamics of unconventional forces         edge base to rely upon. There are many
supporters who have a warrior mindset       operating within that environment.            pieces to that puzzle, and the following
and can think and adapt to rapidly chang-     The SF assignment is a challenging,         are some of the major points brought
ing environments.                           self-motivated and invaluable assignment      up by former Redlegs who have served
  The Army’s transformation created         that should be resourced and maintained       within the SF.
within the SOF community additional         to enhance our fire support community           Selection. The formal selection process
fire support positions and expanded the     now and into the future. As battalion fire    begins with potential candidates contact-
opportunities to develop highly diversi-    supporters in an SF Group, we can say         ing their FA assignments branch officer/
fied leaders within the FA. Fire support    that these types of assignments are worth     NCO. The FA assignments branch then
positions have existed within the SOF       pursuing based on the prestige of the unit,   narrows the field of applicants by using
community primarily throughout the          the experience gained and the opportuni-      factors, such as previous fire support ex-
Ranger Regiment, but the bridge into the    ties not found in other units.                perience and previous key developmental
Special Forces enhances our capabilities      The SF fire supporter’s daily duties and    position experience. After this process,
as a branch and provides a fire support     responsibilities, in some ways, do not        the selection packets of only the most
subject matter expert (SME) to the          differ from what many battalion-level         qualified personnel are forwarded to US
Special Forces (SF).                        fire support elements currently conduct       Army Special Operations Command
  Our operational environment has           in Iraq or Afghanistan. Based on recent       (USASOC) for review. Applicants whose
changed since the start of WOT. Today’s     operational deployments, most fire sup-       records meet the USASOC screening
leaders must be diverse experts in com-     port elements operate within a combined       criteria are scheduled for an interview.

18   March-April 2009   •
After all interviews are complete, USA-       into an SF assignment and get the training         ODAs build are instrumental to the overall
SOC notifies FA assignments branch of         necessary before arriving. It is not atypical      success of the Special Operations Task
their selections.                             to in-process the unit and, within 30 days,        Force (SOTF). For example, integrating
  Having previous fire support experience     deploy on an operational mission.                  electronic fires to disrupt enemy early
is a requirement for fire support assign-       The learning curve for those selected            warning as the essential task for shaping
ment with SF units. Staying up-to-date        for SF positions is steep. If a leader can-        the operation allows an ODA with its
on lessons learned and the emerging           not operate independently and provide              partnered foreign internal defense unit to
trends within the fire support community      relevant recommendatio
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